At 4,260 Meters, but still on The Diet

The blog was originally written for National Geographic as part of the Energy Diet initiative. I was asked to keep a blog for a few weeks about my attempts to minimize my carbon footprint. It was rather challenging to do especially that during part of it I was climbing Aconcagua, the highest mountain in Latin America, solo.

Hello from Aconcagua in Argentina! (map) I must admit it’s been rather interesting to participate in this energy diet while attempting to climb the highest mountain in the Americas solo. It’s been a grueling few days, but I have managed to reach base camp Plaza de Mulas now at 4,260 meters.

The weather up here changes very quickly from scorching hot during the day to hail storms and extreme winds at night. And because I am at this altitude, completing this week’s assignment has been a bit tricky as any attempt to access my electricity bills, or any reliable network for that matter, becomes rather futile.

So, this blog entry just got a lot more interesting. I will take this rare opportunity to simultaneously evaluate both sides of my energy lifestyles.

As the founder of an adventure travel company, a good portion of my year is usually spent in random places around the world, in locations that are remote and similar to my current conditions on the mountain. So it would be interesting to see my professional life in Cairo juxtaposed with my explorer life here on the mountain.

Evaluating the energy consumptions for both will be a challenge, since I’m doing it while in currently on this side, but it will also help me improve consumption for two aspects of my life that are equally important. I will have to rely on memory of course in regards to what happens at home, but hopefully it should be accurate enough to answer the question.

Starting with my consumption at home, I don’t have any figures in front of me, but I guess by default it is pretty low on a grand scale because I am usually at the office, or I am traveling. Having said that, the positives and negatives on my energy diet checklist are probably the following: I live by myself in a cozy two-bedroom apartment, and the times I am at home, I am usually confined to just one room and the rest of the house is switched off. I make a habit to turn off lights after I leave a room.

I usually eat at the office, but maybe the stove will be used two or three times a week on the occasions I eat at home. The water pressure in my bathroom is negligible. Cairo’s weather has been chilling up lately, so unfortunately my heater is something I haven’t been able to live without. I barely watch TV, but I am almost always working on my laptop and plugged in.

Now, thousands of miles away and almost 4,300 meters higher, I can’t help but feel a surge of freedom in being completely “unplugged” from everything. However, with the extreme weather conditions I am expecting in the next few days, maybe having my heater around wouldn’t be the worst thing.

When I first landed in Mendoza, I stayed at a small three-star hotel with minimal facilities in order to rent my missing gear, buy food and gather my permits and paperwork. In line with my energy diet, I opted out of a private car to the starting point and took public transportation instead, which consisted of a five-hour bus ride. Over the next few days, I was able to climb the route with ease, except when the weather turned against me several times, which made it harder and almost impossible to find any reception.

For that reason and several others, there is very little usage of energy in such extreme conditions, and it’s usually limited to what is required for survival. In my case it was three canisters of gas to cook my food and a few batteries (pre-charged at home) for my Kindle, iPod, camera and satellite phone.

Because I am climbing solo, my energy consumption is also primarily limited to what I can personally carry up the mountain, which so far happens to be approximately 50 kg (110 lbs.) worth of gear, clothes, and some food.

While we’re on that topic, mountain food can get pretty tricky, as the conditions make it hard for exciting menu options to exist. My personal menu consists of pasta, sausages, dried fruit, nuts, and cheese. Most of these can be eaten raw, and the few that require heat, thankfully, can be cooked on my mini stove within minutes (assuming weather conditions allow).

It is easy to notice, as well as appreciate, the drastic differences between both lifestyles. I am sure that there are a lot of things I can be doing to reduce my energy consumption during the time that I am at home, and it will be interesting to read what other bloggers have written as they analyze their bills.

The next few days as I ascend to Camp 1 and 2 will be pretty tough and with very little access to a connection. Although I may have some of my electronics with me for entertainment and survival, it is welcoming to know that they remain ‘unplugged’ and I can temporarily escape the civilized and powered up world.

At 4,260 meters and still climbing, I am officially on a full energy diet.

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